Heidi Christensen was named Utah Environmental Education Volunteer of the Year at the statewide Environmental Education Conference which was recently hosted by the Utah Society for Environmental Education at Alta Resort in Salt Lake City.
Heidi has been volunteering for the Ogden Nature Center since 2001. Heidi feeds and cares for the injured and imprinted birds of prey, reptiles and amphibians used in Ogden Nature Center??ª?s education programs and is also a longtime animal handler and outreach educator.
Heidi sometimes brings her own animals to the Nature Center for special programs. Her ferrets are a favorite at preschool summer camps, where Heidi helps children learn to handle animals gently.
Heidi is dedicated to the Ogden Nature Center’s scaled and feathered animal educators. While most of the staff and volunteers are on vacation during holidays, Heidi is at the Nature Center taking care of the animals.
Heidi has a talent for not giving in to setbacks. At one point, Sundance, the Golden Eagle, clocked her with his wing and broke her nose. Heidi was quickly back on the job, putting Sundance on her glove and working with him.
As a member of the U.S. Naval Reserves, Heidi has done at least two tours in Afghanistan. And within a week of coming home, she was back at the Ogden Nature Center cleaning cages and teaching programs.
Heidi leads by example and her enthusiasm is contagious. She has encouraged others to volunteer at the Nature Center including her son, Clay, who is also a full-time volunteer. Heidi often teaches the new volunteers how to handle and care for the center’s education animals. Wildlife Specialist Bryce King says training the volunteer feeders isn’t part of Heidi’s job, but she is always willing to lend a hand or have them follow along until they learn the ropes. This means she is at ease working with the wide range of volunteers who take care of the center’s animals, from youth to older adults and young adults with autism spectrum disorders. Her patience and good humor never waver, and learning from Heidi is always easy and fun. She is never too busy to stop and talk to a visitor about one of the birds and she is happy to share her knowledge.
Heidi also offers her raptor-handling skills as a volunteer for Hogle Zoo’s World of Flight bird show.
The Ogden Nature Center feels very fortunate that Heidi has chosen to give so much of her time and talent to fulfill the Nature Center??ª?s mission of uniting people with nature while nurturing appreciation and stewardship of the environment.